After a recent spate of high-profile suicides, I thought it important to talk about the subject openly because some of you reading this blog may be thinking about it. Or have thought about it. Or have attempted it. Or maybe you know someone who’s taken his or her life. Whenever necessary, I speak directly with clients about the possibility of their being suicidal, but it’s never an easy subject to bring up. However, it’s a lot more comfortable than what I would be feeling if a client attempted it.
I’ve had clients who’ve been passively or actively suicidal, and those who’ve had to be hospitalized or hospitalized themselves when things got too iffy for them or for scary someone else. I’ve known people, mostly acquaintances, who’ve killed themselves—a co-worker decades ago, a man I very briefly dated who lived in Canada, and two very wonderful elderly people who led full lives and didn’t want to wait around for worse infirmity than they already were suffering to bring them down.
Suicide is aptly said to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, a rational explanation for what we think of as an irrational decision. In my book, there’s justified ending your life because you’re in constant physical pain and there’s no chance of getting better or because you’re dying anyway. That is understandable, although I’m not endorsing it in any way, shape or form. Then there’s wanting to end your life because you’re in terrible emotional pain. Although it may not seem so at the time, emotional pain is decidedly more treatable than physical pain. It’s not a one-way street or a given that things will stay bad or get worse. Emotional pain can be made more tolerable or even eliminated, certainly enough to pull back depressed people from the ledge.
Because many dysregulated eaters, at least those who seek psychological treatment, have depression and anxiety disorders, suicidality is always a possibility (though general distant). Attempts or completion also happen more often with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) than with those who don’t carry this diagnosis a good number of people with dysregulated eating also have BPD. Moreover, rates of death by suicide occurring among individuals who have eating disorders are higher than among individuals with other mental health disorders. Most at risk are those who have Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa.
So, what can you do? If you feel that life is too painful or not worth living, recognize this thought as unhealthy and treatable. You need not continue to feel this way. If you know people who speak covertly or overtly about ending their lives, stay with the subject and discuss their feelings with them. And, if people scare you enough to believe that they may take their own life, for goodness sake, no matter how angry they are or you think they might be if you dial 911 to get them hospitalized, ignore their reactions and do what’s best for them. After all, better angry and alive than dead.